Self-reproduction of fatty acid vesicles: a combined experimental and simulation study

A.J. Markvoort, N. Pfleger, R.W.H.M. Staffhorst, P.A.J. Hilbers, R.A. van Santen, J.A. Killian, B. de Kruijff

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Dilution of a fatty acid micellar solution at basic pH toward neutrality results in spontaneous formation of vesicles with a broad size distribution. However, when vesicles of a defined size are present before dilution, the size distribution of the newly formed vesicles is strongly biased toward that of the seed vesicles. This so-called matrix effect is believed to be a key feature of early life. Here we reproduced this effect for oleate micelles and seed vesicles of either oleate or dioleoylphosphatidylcholine. Fluorescence measurements showed that the vesicle contents do not leak out during the replication process. We hypothesized that the matrix effect results from vesicle fission induced by an imbalance of material across both leaflets of the vesicle upon initial insertion of fatty acids into the outer leaflet of the seed vesicle. This was supported by experiments that showed a significant increase in vesicle size when the equilibration of oleate over both leaflets was enhanced by either slowing down the rate of fatty acid addition or increasing the rate of fatty acid transbilayer movement. Coarse-grained moleculardynamics simulations showed excellent agreement with the experimental results and provided further mechanistic details of the replication process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1520-1528
Number of pages9
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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